This is going to read like a commercial, but I swear it isn't.
I visited the Ariston Cafe last week (on Friday) for lunch with my husband, brother, and some cousins who live in Illinois. I was sort of doubtful about this -- some of the other Route 66 places we've visited in Missouri and Illinois were either closed or creepy.
But I was absolutely bowled over by the place. The atmosphere is wonderful. The service is unsurpassed. And the food was great!
I was tempted by the horseshoe, but I had to try the fried chicken. So I ordered the fried chicken "sandwich" -- which was actually a bone-in wing and a bone-in breast (I ordered "all white"), served on toast. Crispy, hot (so hot it burned my fingers) and very well-seasoned. You get one side with the "sandwich" -- potato chips, fries, or cole slaw. I got the cole slaw and gave it to my husband, and he said it was very good.
My brother ordered fried shrimp, which came with the soup and salad bar. He brought back a few tomatoes for me to try, and they were fresh, ripe and delicious. He said the shrimp was exactly what he wanted and hoped for.
I think everyone else had hamburgers or cheeseburgers (except one cousin who had a "Sierra chicken" sandwich), and everyone loved their food.
The whole table shared some toasted ravioli, as well as deep fried green beans, which aren't on the menu, but are available for the asking. The green beans come with either ranch or blue cheese dressing, but because we ordered two orders, we got both. Also very good.
And finally, dessert: the waitress brings you a tray of goodies to choose from, but in addition to the displayed items, there was also a note on the tray reading "strawberry shortcake." She explained that they don't put it on the tray because it is so fragile. I ordered it. It was some of the best strawberry shortcake I've ever had. Very fresh strawberries, and a pile of whipped cream on top, but it was the "cake" that was the star. It may not be to everyone's taste, but it is the kind of shortcake I love -- two square slices of not-too-sweet shortbread-like "cake," maybe half an inch thick, interspersed with the strawberries (and which got even better once it soaked up some of the strawberry juice).
It reminded me of the "short pie" that my mother used to make from an old Bisquick recipe -- which doesn't turn out the right way any more because Bisquick has been reformulated. But it was even better than that. Again, it might not be everyone's version of strawberry shortcake -- if you want sponge cake or biscuits, that's not what this is -- but it was the strawberry shortcake of my dreams. The portion was huge, and I couldn't (quite) finish it.
Staff took photos of our family so everyone could be in the pictures, and because several of us were out-of-town visitors, the waitress brough us complimentary postcards and refrigerator magnets. We got there about 1 p.m., after the initial lunch rush, and they did not try to shoo us out, even though we lingered until about 3:15. (Although the waitress did say that she was wondering whether she needed to bring us the dinner menu!)
The Ariston is a must-stop for Route 66 devotees, but even if you aren't one, you will enjoy it.
<message edited by rumaki on Thu, 08/18/11 11:59 AM>